Dec 10

100 ATRO #86: When the noisy neighbors go away

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

We’ve all had them.  They stomp arond like they’re Frankenstein wearing shoes made of cement.  They blast annoying music into the wee hours.  They yak and yak and yak all night long.  They have a loud and irritating laugh.

But when they go away, the peace and quiet is just delicious.

I’ve written about my downstairs neighbors before.  I once cared about not revealing too many details, but now I don’t give a shit because no one that self-centered would go to the trouble of finding out who I am and Googling me.  Back in September, the woman and her boyfriend got into a huge screaming fight in the middle of the night.  It went on and on.  Finally, we heard the guy’s voice rise to a pitch, a big banging noise, following by the woman crying. He may have just punched a wall or thrown something, but we thought the worst, and called the cops.

What followed, like I said, was something out of Cops.  I heard the woman, “You’re throwing him against the wall?! You’re throwing him against the wall?!”  After they made the guy leave, the woman walked around her apartment, talking to herself and sobbing.  Then I heard her open her bedroom window (which is directly below ours) and grunt in effort.  The next thing I heard was her crying from far away.  At first I thought she was in the basement but then realized she was in our courtyard.

The next morning I found two pillows below her window and I realized: She had jumped.

She’s only on the second floor, but – what the fuck?  Why?  Are you a child?

Anyway, several people complained, and what followed were a couple of months of relative quiet.  We did have to go down once or twice to ask her to turn down her music (note: if you can’t hear your tea kettle whistle, your music is too loud).  Don’t get me wrong: we’re not complete tight asses.  We’re up till 11 or midnight ourselves.  But if it’s one, two, three in the morning, have some fucking consideration and STFU.

Starting around Thanksgiving, we were gifted with lovely peace and quiet.  The woman and her boyfriend are from a far away country, and I gussed they’d be gone all the way through the New Year, or at least Christmas.  I slept like a baby.  I didn’t worry.  I treasured our upstairs neighbors who, at most, pace the floor, but never at odd hours.  They get up early and go to bed before midnight, just like us.

But this week, the downstairs neighbors came back.

And they were fighting again.  Not nearly as bad this time, but way past three in the morning.  They went to their beloved courtyard, apparently straightened things out, came back, and promptly started having a make-up singalong with their radio.  Yes, singing, at four in the morning, at the top of their drunk lungs.

We didn’t go down this time, thinking they’d be too drunk to care.  I stomped on the floor but they heard nothing.  Finally, I sent an email to our landlady, who said she’d talk to them woman.  Hopefully she actually will.

Now all we can do is invest in some really good earplugs, perhaps some cement-filled shoes, and wait for the awesomeness that is the noisy neighbors going away again.

Only awesomer would be if they moved.

Dec 10

100 ATRO #87: Making lists

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

I think we can all agree that making lists is awesome.  Heck, 1000 Awesome Things and my rip-off version are lists themselves.  We’ve all seen or done the meme, 100 Things About Myself.  And as the year draws to a close, we’ll be seeing the Top 10 this and the Best 50 that all over the place.

I’ve been obsessed lately with making lists of words.  It’s part of my job, but I also just LOVE IT.

We have a List of the Day every day.  We usually use lists that other people have made, but once in a while I make one specifically for a wacky holiday.  For instance, I made one called You Don’t Say! about language “disorders, disabilities, and unusual demonstrations” for Spoonerism Day.

But sometimes I just get a bug in my head.  How many different words are there that end in -ing but aren’t gerunds? What about things that sound like serious diseases but aren’t? (Have a bad case of pandiculation? Well, you’re just yawning and stretching.) How many different dumplings, ties, and thieves are there?

The only downside is that it’s yet another procrastination tool for me.  Why write when I can look up coffee barista lingo, foods that have double names (like couscous and mahi mahi), or movie titles that are one common word?

Must resist. . .must resist the awesome lists!

Nov 10

100 ATRO #88: My grandmother

Thursday afternoon I found out my grandmother died.

I’ve written a lot about Puo-puo, my mother’s mother – on this blog, in my memoir, elsewhere.  My brother also wrote a funny and moving tribute to her.

Puo-puo had been ailing for a few years.  Back around 2007, we’re guessing she had a series of small strokes, which left her speech slurred.  But she mostly like her old self.  We went on a family vacation to Las Vegas, and while she was often cooped up in her room, wracked with pain, she was still able to come down at times, play the slots, and join us for meals.  When we talk a family photo, I knelt by her wheelchair.  Seeing me, she broke into a slow, glowing smile.

It would be another two years before I saw her again, this past Thanksgiving, and I was shocked at the change.  Her always jet-black hair was now gray, she seemed to have lost most of her teeth, and she was emaciated.  When before she seemed to at least recognize people, now she had no expression.

It was almost harder seeing her that way than dealing with her death now.

What’s funny is that at that time, there were still sparks of Puo-puo’s old self peeking out.  She still loved to eat, and scarfed down my brother’s mashed potatoes.  She stared a lot at the new people – my cousin’s daughter Mia, as well as MB.

I had the opportunity to see Puo-puo once more this past September.  She was the same, maybe worse.

Although we knew it was going to happen soon, Puo-puo’s death is still a shock.  I assumed she’d live forever, the matriarch of our family, keeping all her kids in line.  The funeral will be very hard.  While I can deal with my own grief, it will be more difficult to see my mother’s, her siblings’, my cousins’.

Puo-puo had a long and amazing life.  Born at the beginning of the 20th century, she lived through the Sino-Japanese War and the Communist Revolution.  She lived in China, Taiwan, and the United States.  She bore seven children and raised five.  She had eight grandkids and two great-grandkids.

But when I think of my grandmother, I think of the funny things too.  I think of her at my wedding, telling people, “I’m the prettiest one here.”  I think of her on a cruise ship, shaking her head and grimacing, “Bu hao chi,” Doesn’t taste good, but eating everything on her plate.  I think of Puo-puo furtively making sure no one was watching as she hid extra food from all-you-can-eat buffet into her purse.

Most of all I think of Puo-puo’s laugh, big and booming, her eyes squeezed shut as though she could barely contain herself.

So of course my grandmother makes the list of Awesome Things.  Even better that she’s number 88, a very lucky Chinese number.  We were all lucky to have her.

Nov 10

100 ATRO #89: Babies trying lemons for the first time

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

The real reasons I want to have a kid is so that I can a) dress him up in funny costumes, and b) give him a lemon to eat for the first time and film his reaction.

Nov 10

100 ATRO #90: Eating something sweet, then something salty

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

If you still have some Halloween candy left, try this: eat a candy bar.  Preferably a Musketeers (if only because that sounds really good to me right now).  Now eat some potato chips, preferably Ruffles.  Just plain, no need to go all sour cream and cheddar.

Delicious, right?  Notice how the sweetness heightens the contrast with the saltiness?  Just makes you want to do it all over again.

Which is what I did at 14, every day after school, and promptly gained almost 20 pounds.

Who can resist that sweet, then salty flavor over and over?  Salty followed by sweet just isn’t the same, at least not for me.

But there are other flavor combos I appreciate.  Sweet and bitter (think baklava plus strong black coffee); sweet and salty all at once, like an amazing salted butter/chocolate crepe I had once on Haight Street and the salted caramel ice cream MB had in Seattle; and spicy chocolate.  Who knew dark chocolate with jalapeno flakes would be so delish?

Of course as an adult I can’t indulge myself every day like I did as a teen.  When I was skinnier, I’d give in about once a week or so.  There I’d be on some lazy weekend afternoon, pigging out on a red velvet cupcake, followed by a 50 cent bag of corn chips, all washed down with a caffeine free Diet Coke.

Pretty ghetto and disgusting, huh?

Nowadays with my pesky cholesterol, I can’t indulge much at all, at least not without feeling guilty.  So I make do with yogurt followed by nuts, Pop Chips, or pretzels.  *Sigh.*  Not the same, but it’ll have to do.

At least until this Friday.  If my doctor tells me my cholesterol is down, I might just have to celebrate with one of these:

Ah yes, the infamous “donut burger,” aka the Luther Burger (as in Luther Vandross), which Paula Deen had to one-up with an egg and why yes, two strips of bacon.  The ultimate in the salty-sweet combo.

Just kidding.  Even I’m not that gross.

Oct 10

100 ATRO #91: Staying in on a holiday that everyone else goes out

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

And you might have noticed I very sneakily changed my Awesome Things list from 1000 to 100.  Since I only post these once a week (if that much), it would take me FOREVER to do 1000.

I live in a town where Halloween is a very big deal.  There are four costume stores within a three block radius of our apartment.  Last year there were a million parties going on at once and the streets were packed.

So what do I plan on doing this Sunday?  Nada, nothing, zilch.

There’s something peaceful about staying in on a day that almost everyone else is out.  One New Year’s Eve, I had no plans.  While the idea of being alone on such a hyped-up party day was daunting at first, I ended up having a really nice time solo.   Before things got too crazy in the city, I went around taking pictures, then hoofed it to Koreantown where I picked up my favorite black bean noodles and sweet and sour beef.  Then I went home, stuffed my face, and watched TV while the rest of the world got drunk and stupid.

Part of that peaceful feeling is freeing yourself of the pressure to have the BEST TIME EVER on a loaded holiday.  Last year I got pretty stressed out looking for a decent costume for a party MB and I were going to.  I had gained a little weight and didn’t feel confident to just go slutty.  I had to think of an actual costume!

While my Amelia Earhart get-up turned out pretty good, I was still relieved to leave the very loud party we were at as well as escape from the madness of the San Francisco streets.  We got home in time to see the end of the Ghost Hunters marathon.

This year I’ll be watching the whole thing.

Oct 10

100 ATRO #92: Finally getting what your yoga teacher says

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

I love yoga.  I love the strengthening, stretching, and getting blood to my head.   And I love my yoga teacher.  I love her even more after getting a taste of a bad yoga teacher (bored monotone voice plus non-stop yammering about herself through our poses).  But sometimes I have no idea what my teacher is talking about.

Like “knit my ribs in” – what does that mean?  I can’t move my ribs.  And “widen my collarbones”?  Those don’t move either.  And “turn the crooks of my elbows to the top of the mat”?  What are the crooks?  The inside, or the outside?

Okay, okay.  I do kind of know what she means.  Kind of.  I move that part of my body in a shoddy imitation of her instruction.  And it does make a difference.  The muscles under my ribs actually feel sore after I’ve been concentrating on “knitting” them together.  But while I’m doing it, I’m struggling.  I’m pretending.

But once in a while, my body seems to position itself where it’s supposed to be, I move each part the way she says, and. . .VOILA!  So that’s why rolling my weight to the outside of my foot in the warrior pose is so effective.  It’s supposed to lengthen that whole side of my body, not just make me feel like I’m – well, rolling my foot.  That’s what she means by saying relax the shoulders as I stretch up through my fingertips.

It’s like suddenly I’m not just concentrating on that one body part.  Suddenly, that one position connects to other parts, one by one, till my whole body is engaged.

Yoga is like striving for moments of perfection, but also knowing whatever you do, as long as you try, is okay.

That’s sort of what keeps me going back.  Trying for that perfect pose.

And also rad biceps.

Oct 10

100 ATRO #93: Being told you look skinny when you feel fat

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

Earlier this month a childhood friend flew into Palo Alto for a family wedding.  I rarely get to see this friend so of course I got on the train and went down there to have dinner with her.  We had a great time catching up – and laughing over the craziness that is retirement-age Chinese people and their obsession with emailing PowerPoint presentations of their vacations to each other – but the best is when she said:

“You’re so thin!”

It’s true that in the past few months I’ve lost maybe five pounds.  But a) I’m still not as skinny as I once was, and b) for the month of September I felt fatter from eating like a pig on our travels and not exercising as much.  In fact, the day I met my friend, I was feeling quite bloated (TMI!).  So to hear my feeling of fatness didn’t make much difference was encouraging.

Being told in surprise that you look skinny when you already feel skinny and perhaps have felt skinny for quite some time is a whole other barrel of monkeys.

My relatives would always do this.  True, I was a chubby teenager and young adult.  This is what they remember.  In my late 20s my weight evened out and I was in consistently good shape from then on.  But for the next ten years, every time my grandmother, aunts, or uncles saw me, they’d proclaim in surprise, “You’re thin now!”

Oh well.  It’s better than getting punched in the stomach.

Sep 10

100 ATRO: #94 Watching people run for the bus

It’s that time again!

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

Not only have you gotten a seat, you’ve gotten a window seat.  You’re peacefully listening to your iPod and daydreaming when from the corner of your eye you see a swiftly moving figure.  Is it a mugger with a lady’s purse?  Or someone taking their morning jog to a whole new level?  No, this person is running for the bus.

What is it about seeing someone going all out and positively sprinting to catch the 47?  Maybe it’s because the last time we ran like that, presuming we’ve not had a bear chasing us down recently, was when we were kids.  Running just for the hell of it, to see how fast we could go – running so fast we thought our legs might fall off and maybe, just maybe, we’d take flight.

Sure, the person is running because they’ll be late for a job they might hate, but in the moment all you think is, Go! Go! You can make it!

How about when it’s your turn?  The other day I had one minute to catch the train.  As I bounced on my toes waiting for the light to change, I checked the time.

“We might be able to make it,” the lady next to me said.

She was someone I’d seen on the bus every day, but had never made eye contact.  Now we were smiling and laughing, getting ready to book it to the 8:44.

The light changed to yellow, then red.  Ready, set, GO!

Jul 10

100 ATRO: #95 Line Directors

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and I’m due for a post anyway.

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

Ladies, you’ve been there.  Intermission at a Broadway show or concert, and the line for the women’s restroom snakes out of the restroom, down the hall, around the corner, and up the stairs you just came down. Not only that, people aren’t pay attention.  They’re talking to their friend, or on their cell phone, or checking their email, or are just dumb ass space cadets, unlike you and a few others keeping an eagle’s eye out for the next available stall because a) you really have to go, b) intermission’s almost over, and c) who wants to stay in the bathroom any longer than they have to?

Thank God for the line directors.

These ancient yet spry ladies keep us, well, in line.  “Next!” they call, pointing us like dumb cows to the next available stall.  “Next!” they bark to the ninny addicted to her iPhone.  Only better would be if they banged on the stalls of women taking too long.  “What are you doing in there, knitting a sweater? Pee and go!”

But public restrooms aren’t the only place we can enjoy the line directors.

Concession stands. We were at a concert recently where there was one long-ass line for the many workers of the concession stand.  “Oy,” I murmured. “People won’t pay attention and this will take twice as long.”

Line director to the rescue!

Grocery stores. We all remember the dude in the apron pointing us to the next available ringer-upper before Whole Foods went automated.

Airports. Why there aren’t always line directors in airports is beyond me.  They can answer your questions, make sure you’re in the right line, as well as direct the gaggle of already-drunk housewives going to Vegas to the next available agent is available.

Now all we need are our own pushers to get people on the bus properly.